Trebor Healey's short stories collected for the first time in A PERFECT SCAR AND OTHER STORIES have that classic, William Trevor sort of completeness, When you go into his world, you surrender yourself over to a master who has imagined everything about his characters from before they were born to the minutes of their death, and his knowledge of them is so utterly complete you don't have to struggle for interpretation, they are there among you acting out, their will Nietzschean and their carnal appetites just as big as yours. The Canadian short story writer Alice Munro has said, "In a story, character is alpha and beta is omega," and in Healey's world, the job of the character is to steal the game away from plot and conventional structure and to run for it.
In his novel THROUGH IT CAME BRIGHT COLORS, Healey demonstrated his affinity for creating strong, identifiable characters in telling the claustrophobic tale of a love affair between two men living together in a rundown Tenderloin hotel, one a boy from a local family who leaves his suburban family to find authenticity in urban squalor, the other a victim of sexual and emotional trauma, a boy ruined before his time. Here something of that book's purity and passion leaks through into the messy lives of Healey's denizens, irradiating even the worst imaginable events with a soft atomic glow, like Area 51. In the title tale, a fellow rather like Neill in BRIGHT COLORS encounters a Vietnamese-born American gangster called Tran and, sensationally enough, becomes his sex slave, entering the private world of organized street crime via the prostate gland. It's a tough, savvy, nonchalant look at technologies of addiction, and the lengths you'll stoop to when you just got to have it.
At the opposite pole, so to speak, is the magic fabulism of "Faun," in which a little boy, Gilberto, the pride and joy of his extended family, grows up and things get a little hairy shall we say, and the nubs of horns start appearing under his hairline, and his haunches glossy and soon enough, anyone encountering him starts feeling the sap of spring rush through their bloodstream. But it's not easy being a faun and eventually you realize you have to leave middle school behind and start looking for Walt Whitman and the forests of Arcady. Not all of Healey's experiments in this vein are as successful as Faun; I never wound up buying the rollicking Barbary Coast adventure of "Captain Jinx" nor the Moll Flandersesque voice of its narrator. "The human heart knows a thing or two," she tells us, "that the sorry mind can never comprehend." Wait--didn't JT Leroy say that? And yet one applauds Healey's experiments in form and genre as one would applaud the annual Fourth of July firework show. I hope he continues to light up the sky for generations to come!